The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks/December 1769
- 1769 December 1.
Several Canoes were on board by Day break and sold some things cheifly for Indian Cloth and quart bottles. The day misty and stewy: the boats were on shore on the Island which we searchd on the 29th with so little success that we did not think it worth while to go ashore.
It is now a long time since I have mentiond their custom of Eating human flesh, as I was loth a long time to beleive that any human beings could have among them so brutal a custom. I am now however convincd and shall here give a short account of what we have heard from the Indians concerning it. At Taoneroa the first place we landed in on the Continent the boys who we had on board mentiond it of their own accords, asking whether the meat they eat was not human flesh, as they had no Idea of any animal but a man so large till they saw our sheep: they however seemd ashamd of the custom, saying that the tribe to which they belongd did not use it but that another very near did. Since that we have never faild wherever we went ashore and often when we convers'd with canoes to ask the question; we have without one exception been answerd in the affirmative, and several times as at Tolaga and today the people have put themselves into a heat by defending the Custom, which Tubia who had never before heard of such a thing takes every Occasion to speak ill of, exhorting them often to leave it off. They however as universaly agree that they eat none but the bodies of those of their enemies who are killd in war, all others are buried.
- 1769 December 2.
Boats went ashore on the Island again. I do not know what tempted Dr Solander and myself to go there where we almost knew nothing was to be got but wet skins, which we had very sufficiently for it raind all the time we were ashore as hard as I ever saw it.
- 1769 December 3.
Many Canoes were on board in the morn, one very large which carried 82 people. After breakfast Dr Solander and myself went ashore on the Continent; we found few plants and saw but few people but they were most perfectly civil; we went by their invitation to their little town which was situated in the bottom of a cove without the least defence. One of the old men here shewd us the instruments with which they stain their bodies which was exactly like those usd at Otahite. We saw also here the man who was shot at on the 29th in atempting to steal the Buoy; the ball had gone through the fleshy part of his arm and grazd his breast; the wound was open to the air without the smallest application upon it yet it had as good an appearance and seemd to give him as little pain as if he had had the best dressings to it. We gave him a musquet ball and with a little talking to he seemd very fully sensible of the escape he had had.
In the Even we went ashore on another Island where were many more people than we had seen in the morn, who livd in the same peacable stile and had very large plantations of sweet potatoes, yamms etc. all about their village. They receivd us much as our freinds in the morning had done and like them shewd much satisfaction at the little presents of necklaces etc. which were given to them.
- 1769 December 4.
Our Old man came on board and brought with him his brother who had been shot with small shot on the 29th; it had slanted along his thigh which I suppose had not less than 100 shotts in it. This wound was likewise without any application and seemd to give him little or no pain but was crusted over with a hard crust, natures plaister, equal maybe when she chuses to apply it to any that art has contrivd.
After breakfast we went ashore at a large Indian fort or heppah; a great number of people immediately crouded about us and sold almost a boat load of fish in a very short time. They then went and shewd us their plantations which were very large of Yamms, Cocos, and sweet potatoes; and after having a little laught at our seine, which was a common kings seine, shewd us one of theirs which was 5 fathom deep and its lengh we could only guess, as it was not stretchd out, but it could not from its bulk be less than 4 or 500 fathom. Fishing seems to be the cheif business of this part of the countrey; about all their towns are abundance of netts laid upon small heaps like hay cocks and thatchd over and almost every house you go into has netts in it making.
After this they shewd us a great rarity 6 plants of what they calld Aouta from whence they made cloth like the Otahite cloth; the plant provd exactly the same, as the name is the same, as is usd in the Islands, Morus papyrifera Linn., the same plant as is usd by the Chinese to make paper. Whether the Climate does not well agree with it I do not know, but they seemd to value it very much and that it was very scarce among them I am inclind to beleive, as we have not yet seen among them peices large enough for any use but sticking into the holes of their Ears. In the afternoon we went to a very distant part of the bay, the people here were very few. All but one old man ran away from us; he accompanied us where ever we went and seemd much pleasd with the little presents we made him. Near where we landed was a little fort built upon a small rock, surrounded by the sea at high water and accessible only by a ladder. We expressd a desire to go there; he said there was his wife but if we would promise to practice no indecencies towards her he would accompany us; this we most readily did and he was as good as his word. The ascent was so difficult that tho there were stepps and a pole we found it dangerous enough. When we came up there were in it 3 women who on our first coming cried, but presents soon put them into better humour. There were in all only 3 houses, but the situation as I have before describd was so steep that the inhabitants of them might easily defend themselves against almost any force that could be brought against them.
- 1769 December 5.
A small spirt of fair wind before day break made us heave up the anchor in a great hurry, but before we were well underway it was as foul as ever so we were obligd to atempt turning out. Many canoes came from all parts of the bay which is by far the most populous place we have been in. In the middle of the day we were becalmd and caught many fish with hooks. About 10 at night as we were going through the outer heads on a sudden we wer[e] becalmd so that the ship would neither wear nor stay: in a moment an eddy tide took hold of us and hustled us so fast towards the land that before the Officers resolvd what was best to be done the ship was within a Cables lengh of the breakers, we had 13 fathom water but the ground so foul that they dar'd not drop an anchor. The eddy now took another turn and set her along shore opening another bay but we were too near the rocks to trust to that: the pinnace was orderd to be hoisted out in an instant to take the ship in tow, Every man in her was I beleive sensible of the Danger we were in so no one spard to do his best to get her out fast. The event however shewd how liable such situations must be to Confusion: they lowerd down too soon and she stuck upon a gun: from this she must be thrust by main force, in doing which they had almost ove[r]set her which would have tumbled out her oars: no man thought of running in the gun: at last that was done and she was afloat, her crew was soon in her and she went to her duty. A faint breeze of wind now sprung up off the land and with that and towing she to our great Joy got head way again, at a time when she was so near the shore that Tupia who was not sensible of our danger was conversing with the Indians ashore, who made themselves very distinctly heard notwithstanding the roaring of the breakers.
We were all happy in our breeze and fine clear moonlight; myself went down to bed and sat upon my cott undressing myself when I felt the ship strike upon a rock, before I could get upon my leggs she struck again. I ran upon deck but before I could get there the danger was over; fortunately the rock was to wind ward of us so she went off without the least damage and we got into the proper channel, where the officers who had examind the bay declard there to be no hidden dangers--much to our satisfaction as the almost certainty of being eat as soon as you come ashore adds not a little to the terrors of shipwreck.
- 1769 December 6.
In the morn we were clear of all our dangers and at sea to our no small satisfaction notwithstanding the wind was as foul as possible.
- 1769 December 7.
Wind not much better than yesterday.
- 1769 December 8.
Very light breeze: we have ran off so far from the land that we can distinguish nothing upon it. In the evening fair wind.
- 1769 December 9.
Fair wind tho but little of it. Many Canoes came off who shewd much fear of us and after some time said that they had heard of our Guns. Tupia at last persuaded them to come under the stern and after having bought of them some of their cloths, which they sold very fairly, began to enquire about the countrey. They told him that at the distance of three days rowing in their canoes, at a place calld Moorewhennua, the land would take a short turn to the southward and from thence extend no more to the West. This place we concluded must be Cape Maria Van Diemen, and finding these people so intelligent desird him to enquire if they knew of any Countries besides this or ever went to any. They said no but that their ancestors had told them to the NW by N or NNW was a large countrey to which some people had saild in a very large canoe, which passage took them up a month: from this expedition a part only returnd who told their countreymen that they had seen a countrey where the people eat hogs, for which animal they usd the same name (Booah) as is usd in the Islands. And have you no hoggs among you? said Tupia.--No.--And did your ancestors bring none back with them?--No.--You must be a parcel of Liars then, said he, and your story a great lye for your ancestors would never have been such fools as to come back without them. Thus much as a specimen of Indian reasoning. After much conversation our freinds left us but promisd to return at night and bring with them fish, which they did and sold it very reasonably.
- 1769 December 10.
This morn we were near the land which was as barren as it is possible to conceive: hills within hills and ridges even far inland were coverd with white sand on which no kind of vegetable was to be seen, it was conjecturd by some that the wind blow[s] the sand quite across it. Some Indian forts or Heppah's were seen and from them some canoes put off but did not overtake us.
- 1769 December 11.
Wind as heard hearted as ever: we turnd all day without loosing any thing, much to the credit of our old Collier, who we never fail to praise if she turns as well as this.
- 1769 December 12.
Wind etc. as yesterday.
- 1769 December 13.
Wind as foul as ever and rather overblows so that in this days turning we lost all we had [gaind?] last week.
- 1769 December 14.
Blows almost as fresh as it did yesterday but rather more fair; a heavy swell from the west made us almost conclude that there was no land to the Northward of us.
- 1769 December 15.
More moderate but not more fair: we begin to think this Cape our Ne plus ultra.
- 1769 December 16.
We stood out to sea yesterday and last night so that we could in the morn only Just see the land from the mast head: stood in for it and at night made it plain.
- 1769 December 17.
This morn we were in with the land which trends a little to the Southward so we hoped that our troubles are nearly at an end; during the days turning however we contrivd to lose near a leag[u]e, no great comfort to us.
- 1769 December 18.
Still more to leeward this morn and in the even still more. On a rock pretty near us an Indian fort was seen through our glasses which we all thought was encircled with a mud wall; if so tis the only one of the kind we have seen.
- 1769 December 19.
Stood out to sea last night: tonight were in with the land and found we had gaind something as we did also the last time we stood far off, which made the seamen conclude that some small current along shore must be the reason why we could never get any thing by our short trips.
- 1769 December 20.
Some hopes of a fair wind in the morn but they soon left us and it began to blow hard with violent claps of thunder, on which we again stood out to sea.
- 1769 December 21.
Wind not quite so bad as yesterday but a great swell from the West hinderd the ship much.
- 1769 December 22.
Swell as yesterday but the wind has come more to the Southward so that we cannot come in with the land at all.
- 1769 December 23.
Little wind more favourable than yesterday so that at night the land was seen from the Mast head.
- 1769 December 24.
Land in sight, an Island or rather several small ones most probably 3 Kings, so that it was conjecturd that we had Passd the Cape which had so long troubled us. Calm most of the Day: myself in a boat shooting in which I had good success, killing cheifly several Gannets or Solan Geese so like Europaean ones that they are hardly distinguishable from them. As it was the humour of the ship to keep Christmas in the old fashiond way it was resolvd of them to make a Goose pye for tomorrows dinner.
- 1769 December 25.
Christmas day: Our Goose pye was eat with great approbation and in the Evening all hands were as Drunk as our forefathers usd to be upon the like occasion.
- 1769 December 26.
This morn all heads achd with yesterdays debauch. Wind has been Easterly these 3 or 4 days so we have not got at all nearer the Island than we were.
- 1769 December 27.
Blows very hard a[t] SE so that we were again drove off the Land, not much displeasd as we all rejoicd much that it was not an on shore wind.
- 1769 December 28.
Wind now SW right on shore but thank god we have so good an offing that we are in not the least danger. All our sea people said that they never before were in so hard a summers Gale.
- 1769 December 29.
Wind more moderate but still blows prodigiously fresh with a monstrous sea. No such summer Gales as this to the Norward sayd our Captn.
- 1769 December 30.
Blew very fresh still tho the heart of the Gale seemd to be broke: we have been driven much to the Northward so that today we once more passd in sight of Cape Maria and the 3 Kings.
- 1769 December 31.
Wind as yesterday, sea something abated: stood in for the Land which we had not now seen for some time: dared not venture very near as the wind was right on shore, it appeard very sandy and barren.